One of the basic necessities of life is shelter. It ranks among the three social needs of mankind; namely food, cloth and shelter.
Why many people could afford food and cloth, only the privileged few can boast of a roof above their heads. Therefore, housing, over the years, has posed a big challenge, especially for the ordinary man.
Despite its importance in the accomplishment of the individual and government, the desire to acquire a house has always remained an illusion.
Infact, the situation is even worse in Rivers State, the hub of the hydrocarbon industries in the Nigerian project.
It was therefore not suprising to notice that provision of adequate, affordable and habitable houses for the teeming population in the state due to the influx of expatriates and other Nigerians into the state was a major challenge to the state government on the emergence of democratic rule in the state in 1999.
Against this backdrop, the state government on inception on May 29, 1999 made housing development one of the policy thrusts of the administration as to provide accommodation to both rural and urban dwellers in the state.
Indeed, it was impressive to note that the state government in efforts to achieve this policy objective in the housing sector embarked on the construction of one thousand housing units in all the local government headquarters in Rivers State. The government’s intention was to build and sell these houses to civil servants and other indigenes to alleviate the acute accommodation problem in the state.
In the same vein, the government embraced the global policy on urban renewal of low cost housing units at Ndoki Water Front, Aggrey, Bonny and Creek Roads all in Port Harcourt Local Government Area to provide houses on owner occupier basis.
Apparently, the emergence of Hon. Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi as the governor of Rivers State through a land-mark judgement delivered by the Supreme Court on October 25, 2007 took housing development in the state to the next level.
Immediately on assumption of office on October 26, 2007, Governor Amaechi demonstrated strong political will to tackle the acute accommodation problem in the state.
To achieve this, the present administration anchored its housing development policy on three pronged programmes; namely Urban Renewal, Greater Port Harcourt City Development Plan and Public Private Partnership (PPP) in project execution.
To be precise, the Urban Renewal policy of the Amaechi’s administration focuses on adding value to the 45 slums settlements in Port Harcourt and also restore the Garden City status of Port Harcourt while Greater Port Harcourt Development policy places premium on taking development to neighbouring local government areas of the state. Also, the Public Private Partnership policy of the government encouraged and created enabling environment for private sector participation in aggressive housing development.
This innovation, no doubt led to the multi-billion naira Rivers State government and First Bank of Nigeria Plc Rainbow Housing Estate project now nearing completion in Port Harcourt.
Besides, the present administration revolutionaries in the housing sector in the state by constructing model primary and secondary schools in the 23 local government areas of the state.
In addition, the Amaechi’s administration aggressively embarked on the construction of Model Primary Health Centres in Omoku, Potts Johnson, Okechi, Rumudomaya, Ihuaje, Eneka, Akwa Etche, Oyigbo West (Obete Ndoki) and Akpajo.
Others include Odufor-Etche, Ogan Ama, Eliozu, Okogbe, Taaba, Obuama, Ataba, Ikodi Engene, Bundu, Ubima, Okuru-Ama, Agwut-Obolo, Woji and Kula.
Also benefited from the scheme are Beeni, Kaani-Baabe, Sime, Ase Asagha (Ndoni District), Naval Medical Centre, Borikiri Port Harcourt, Rukpokwu and Elelenwo.
According to experts in the built environment, Rivers State has laid solid foundation towards addressing housing needs of the people but said a lot more needs to be done.
Dr. Chris .O. Ibeakuzie, chairman Nigeria Institute of Town Planners, Rivers State chapter was of the view that the Rainbow Housing Estate project is grossly inadequate to provide accommodation for the residents of the state.
He wants the state government to replicate the Rainbow Housing project in ten different locations if the government wants to solve the problem of shelter in the state.
Speaking in the same vien, Sir Mark Nemieboka, chairman of Nigerian Institution of Estate Surveyors and Valuers, Rivers State branch told The Weekend Tide that housing development in Rivers State so far revealed that no government housing scheme was executed to the satisfaction of the citizens starting from Chief Milford Okilo’s administration.
“No administration has carried out housing development to meet the needs of the people. This particular government (Amaechi’s administration) is yet to be judged because it is midway” Nemieboka emphasised.
On Rainbow Housing Estate, the NIESV boss remarked that “as a valuer, the property at Rainbow Housing Estate can be priced above low and medium income group unless government comes in with special consideration in ways of social scheme”.
He commended the present administration in the state for the commitment shown in the infrastructural and human development especially the Greater Port Harcourt City Development Master Plan.
Pastor Francis Onyeche said a cursory look at events in Rivers State would testify that the state has never had it so good in terms of housing development and infrastructural and human capacity development.
From the above, it is not an over-statement for one to say that Rivers State has moved to the next level in housing development since the institution of democratic government in the state in 1999.